This suspense is terrible: I do hope it will last

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Does it count as a spoiler if the text is over a century old?

When we went to see the current RSC production of Hamlet, the chap was reading the programme and suddenly muttered “spoiler alert”. I was surprised he didn’t know the end but it turned out he just didn’t know the details and the programme had given it away. Oddly enough, I don’t count the end of Shakespeare plays as something to keep secret. They’ve been around for a lot longer than, say, the Mousetrap (and does anyone not know the end of that these days?). When I was raving about the RSC production, I did keep some details of how they do certain scenes back as I know several friends who had yet to see it in its Stratford run or who have tickets for the London run and I didn’t want to spoil it for them. There are some bits of stagecraft that took my breath away – and I don’t just mean the very delicious sight of Tennant’s bare midriff.

Sorry, where was I?

Years ago, when the BBC ran their adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, I was amused to watch newly converted fans rushing to buy the video in order to find out the end sooner (the video being released a few days before the airing of the final episode). I wanted to point out they could have got the book for a couple of quid. I also once resisted the urge to turn around in Rymans and tell someone how The Lord of the Rings ended to stop her wittering on about how she had to wait a year to see the ending. The book’s been around for fifty years: if it matters to you that much, go and read it.

On Thursday night, I used wikipedia to find out the end of Little Dorrit. I am so ashamed. I have spoilered myself because I was impatient to find out what happens between Arthur and Amy. And now I know, and wish that I didn’t because I won’t be held on the same tenterhooks for the rest of the adaptation. I briefly looked at the text on Project Gutenburg but, guilty, I popped into Waterstones on the way home on Friday and bought the book. The edition has an introduction which starts with the note “new readers are advised that this Introduction makes the details of the plot explicit”. So spoiler warnings now appear at the start of Penguin classic editions.

I am very annoyed with myself.


Tangent: I wonder what the second half of Hamlet was like on the night Tennant resigned from Who live on air during the interval? And the insanity of seeing a Doctor resign live on ITV1 via a link from the Royal Albert Hall (where there was wailing) and the stage door of the RSC (“I’ve got to go and kill Patrick Stewart”) made me wonder what world I am living in. I’m a fan, and I never expected things to become this big…

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